Friday, July 22, 2022

Cream Horns and Grief

When someone we love dies, we are heartbroken.  Maybe you find yourself heartbroken today.  If so, know I am thinking of and praying for you this afternoon.  Whether you're missing your grandpa, your child, your friend, your baby, your brother, your boss...I am thinking of you.  Your loved one was unique and loved.

Ministry took me a few miles from home this morning, and because I live in DC, every mile is a hike (!) so I found an interesting place to enjoy lunch.  Today it was a Swiss restaurant, and since I've not been to Switzerland nor tried Swiss food (save the cheese!), I stopped in.  I chose a cold pretzel sandwich with butter, salami, and gruyere for my meal (insert chef's kiss).  What a world.

As I finished, I saw them out of the corner of my eye.  What are them?  Cream horns.

Hello old friends.

The McKowns love a cream horn: The powdered sugar, the flaking, the cream--it's all heavenly.  If you haven't tried one, get thee to a bakery stat.  

All McKowns love them, but the McKown who loved them most was Betty, my grandmother.  I can still remember Granny gleefully eating cream horns over the sink.  Why eat over the sink?  

  1. Why dirty a plate?  
  2. Why chance powdered sugar on one of her exceptional outfits?

Exceptional outfit 

Cream horns always make me think of Granny.  I smiled when I saw them, but I also swallowed back a lump in my throat.  Grief is like that.  It's joy, it's sadness, it's gratitude, it's pain, it's funny.  It can be all the things.  

And wherever you are on your grief journey, know there is no recipe.  Laughter and tears are both welcome, and sometimes surface within the same day.  Today I mostly felt joy, but I felt some sadness too.

My faith (Christianity) is a comfort.  Jesus wept when his friend died (John 11:35), so I imagine Jesus grieving with me when I grieve.  (I also imagine him laughing when me when I laugh, but who knows if he likes puns as much as I do.)

What are the "cream horns" for you?  What is a sign of your loved one? 

And please know, no matter your faith or religion, I am praying for all those who grieve today. 

Friday, July 15, 2022

Highlands, Hagrid's Hut, & Hogwarts

The title of the post is misleading, as today there are more than 3 points and they are not alliterative.  

This is the most beautiful place I've ever been.  Hands down.  All I can do is gape in awe.

When I travel internationally, I typically think I won't return because there are so many lands to see, people to meet, foods to taste, and cultures to experience (!) but I could definitely return to Scotland.  (I think I definitely will return to Scotland.)

With the incomparable Meg Ramey!

Hiking in Glencoe

When we stopped in the Highlands to stare at the majesty of Scotland, a man started playing the bagpipes almost on cue.  Sandra, our kindhearted, fun traveler, let Mr. Bagpipes know we had a birthday gal among us and he happily obliged.  Grown people were giggling.  GIGGLING!  

St. Conan's Kirk (church) is settled next to a loch.  Conan built it for his mom and while it appears medieval, it was built in the early 1900s.  There are a few stained glass windows, but the windows in the apse are clear pane and what a beauty they are!  It's got personality.

Hagrid's Hut & Hogwarts
We hiked around Claichaig Inn and, without sounding like a broken record, gaped in awe at the sights.  We also hiked to the site of Hagrid's hut!  The hut was built and filmed from this location, so we tried to summon the spirit of Hagrid.  

We later visited the famous Jacobite Steam Train, which we all know as Hogwarts Express.  The Potterheads were in their bliss.

Pretending to be Hagrid
Tonight's inn in Pitlochry is my favorite.  Take a look at this beauty, which boasts lovely, well appointed rooms in an idyllic setting.  But also... As I write from my room upstairs at 11:18p, the pub is still ROCKIN' downstairs.  This may be a lengthy post.

Tour Guide and Hostess with the Mostest
Meg and Kathleen (formally, Drs. Ramey and Burt) are an excellent pair.  I have learned loads about Scottish history, culture, food (Steak pie!  Cullen skink!), and music (hello Jimmy Shand) and they've organized a great adventure for us. 

Give WorldKind a try if you want to travel with a group (or lead a group) or the many other educational offerings on their website.

Update:  Pub is still rockin' downstairs at 11:47p.  We're at the Proud Mary stage of the evening.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Ceilidhs, Castles, and Camaraderie

Preachers are required to be alliterative and offer 3 points, so today I give you 'Ceilidhs, Castles, and Camaraderie'.

Ceilidh (pronouced 'kay-lee')
Last night we went to a ceilidh in Edinburgh.  Ceilidh dancing is part of Scottish culture, and according to me, is a gigantic joy.  One way to imagine a ceilidh is extremely spirited square dancing (but not really).  You switch partners a zillion times and the musicians teach the dance moves at the beginning of each song.

As a perfectionist, I don't really like to do things I don't know how to do and ceilidh dancing is one of those things.  But I am on holiday, and it's good to bust out every now and again.  I was determined to dance, and not to be cheesy, but I wanted to dance not just to dance but to remind myself to live a little (!) and that you don't have to be perfect at something to try it.  

When we arrived, the ballroom was full of Scots of all ages.  It was hot and there was an aroma (!), but the body odor was overpowered by joy.  I know, it's cheesy, but everyone was having such fun.  I loved it.

I watched for awhile and was nervous to try, but my friends finally convinced me to hit the dance floor.   I'm glad I did.

It seems I had a wee bit of fun.  Photo cred:  Meg

We visited both Doune Castle and Stirling Castle this week.  Both were incredible.  I thought Doune Castle was only a shell, but I was quite wrong!  Contained inside is a mountain of history!  Mary Queen of Scots stayed here!  

Doune Castle was a treat!  Photo cred:  Holly

Stirling Castle was a marvel, and as I understand it, a favorite of many who visit Scotland.  It played a major role in the history of Scotland, as it afforded views for miles.  If you don't know much about the history of Scotland, rewind about 800ish years and get to know Robert the Bruce.  

I love our group.  We are 2 Scots, 2 Canadians, and 7 Americans.  I wouldn't trade a one of them.  I have loved hearing their stories and learning about their work.  We have talked religion and politics.  I have seen pictures of their families.  These people are fun and funny.  They are helping me look for a Baptist church that needs a pastor in Scotland!  Cross your fingers.

I worried about coming by myself, but it was all for naught.  I have been included (and photographed!) every minute of the day.  I'm glad I said yes to the trip.  It's been very good for me.

I'm having the best time.  

A photo of us with Scotland's own Jimmy Shand, a favorite artist of our tour guide, Kathleen

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Bonnie Scotland

They call it bonnie Scotland for good reason.  It's lovely. 

The lion share of Saturday afternoon was spent at the Alva Highland Games.  What a wonderful experience!  I'd read about caber tossing, but seeing it in person was amazing!  Basically, a fella in a kilt picks up a telephone pole, balances it, runs, and then attempts to flip it. Many were able to run with the pole, but flipping is another story.  We only saw one fella (we dubbed him "Green Socks") who was able to do it.  Green Socks was also excellent at other sports.  He had a following, not a few of which were in our group.

Today (Sunday) was spent in the Trossachs.  We visited the 🎶🎶bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond 🎶🎶 where we took a wee cruise.  

The views were stunning (!); however, I lost my phone on the 🎶🎶bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond 🎶🎶.  Our group of 11 was as sweet as sticky toffee pudding (Scottish treat!) and helped me look for it, but Katie's phone was not to be found.  So, along with new friends, I also now have many personal photographers.

But wait (!)...the wee cruise captain discovered my phone and will deliver it to our hotel on Tuesday!  If he didn't snap at least 100 selfies on the 🎶🎶bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond 🎶🎶 I will be severely disappointed.

We enjoyed lunch at the Drover's Inn, which was built in 1705.  

The afternoon concluded by meeting Highland dairy cows.  Many in our group were waiting for this moment with bated breath, but not me.  I finally threw caution to the wind and fed not-wee Hamish here a carrot.

Tonight we are in Stirling, and what a lovely city it is!  After dinner we walked around the city to see the castle, church, graveyard, and grounds.  

I am loving the group vibe, and have enjoyed hearing their stories and perspectives.  I am glad I am here meeting new people and trying new things.  Doing something new and different is a good way to clear out the cobwebs.  I'm grateful.

Friday, July 8, 2022

Every Good Adventure Begins with Cheese

I'm on my way to Scotland as I type...sort of.  My flight is delayed until 2:24a, but it's all good.  I'm grateful the flight wasn't cancelled canceled (in honor of the UK).

And interestingly enough I'm traveling to Scotland because of a trip I took to Turkey!

As a seminary student, I traveled to Turkey with classmates to visit the 7 churches of Revelation.  Allow me to chase a Turkey rabbit for a moment:  If you travel to Turkey, get thyself to Ephesus.  It's a marvel.  Scripture comes alive there.  Please visit Ephesus (!); however, no church could top Thyatira for Katie.  Thyatira is the home of Lydia (Acts 16) and Lydia was likely a pastor of a house church there.  My friend Meg and I were so excited we donned purple cloth for the occasion!

Meg, Katie, and the spirit of Lydia at Thyatira

Fast forward 15 years and Meg (now Dr. Ramey!) has her own travel company.  Meg planned a group trip to Scotland, I signed up, and I'm on my way! (Well, I will be at 2:24a)

I'm excited (!), but I'm nervous too:  This trip is a first for me as I'm traveling alone.  Yes, I know Meg and I'm excited to see her, but I don't know anyone else in the group.  I'm an extrovert, but I still get nervous.  

But, I'm not really traveling alone.  I'm taking little pieces of my friends and family with me (this is the cheesy part):
  • Kourtney helped me select a fun crossbody bag with a guitar strap.  I don't understand it, but I like it.  She also helped me buy 40 pairs of shoes for Scotland weather.  I returned 39, but she gets it. 
  • Pam sent me 20 pounds (currency!) in the mail to spend.  Queen Elizabeth is burning a hole in my pocket.
  • Randi has been educating me on Scottish history, foods, and music.
  • Leslie is welcoming me into her Scottish home before I set off with the group.
  • Mom listened to me chatter for an hour  while I paced around the airport tonight.  Props to Pat.
  • Mary loaned me the best backpack in the world.  It's stylish and the pockets are AMAZING.  I'm of the age that pocket choice and arrangement amaze me.  Mary also drove me to the airport.  Does she have time to drive me to Dulles?  No.  But did she make time?  Yes.  She also helped me book a new flight when the delay made things complicated.  Mary doesn't play.  She offered to drive me to Baltimore and I almost fainted.  Baltimore might as well be California in terms of distance from DC.  True friend alert.
Mary at Dulles.  Only true friends drive you to Dulles and that's the truth.

I'm grateful and excited!  

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Lessons Learned From Pulpit-Supplying

At least twice a month I supply preach for churches, which means at least twice a month I'm a church visitor. I'm an extrovert and a pastor, so you'd think it'd be easy; but sometimes it isn't. Like other visitors, I often don't know where to go, which door to choose, or where to sit. I see people looking at me and wondering who I am. Most of the time the stares are innocent, but rarely are they followed up with a greeting.

I don't so much care about Katie getting lost or Katie not being greeted, but I do care about those who've shown up to worship for the first time in awhile (or ever). They are visiting with family, or maybe they're curious about faith. Is Christianity is what they've heard it is (for better or worse)? Maybe a personal crisis brought them back. Maybe they want community. Whatever the reason, they've showed up, so we (the church) have got to bend over backwards to make them feel at home.

This doesn't mean to attack them with weirdness. BE COOL, EVERYONE.

It's not easy being a visitor, which is why I want to celebrate the church where I preached on Sunday. Here's a list of what they did well:

  • The Deacon Chair was there to greet me upon my arrival. It was easy to know where to go and what to do, because she was ready for me. Is your church ready for visitors (in person and online)?

  • The Deacon Chair introduced me to the worship pastor and worship leaders. Do you seek out visitors and introduce them to others?

  • A dad with his young son sat in the back. The dad was baptized last week and was grinning from ear to ear. It was easy to see how the church made him feel at home. Do you make people new to your church feel at home?

  • Women and men were leading in every aspect of worship. (Also, don't assume small and/or rural churches are led only by men.)

  • After the service, they sought to connect with me. One senior adult showed me his Nationals socks. Another couple talked about living in DC.

  • I was immediately invited to lunch with a group of 6 seniors (Boomer, Silent, and Greatest Generation!). They shared about their lives and asked me about mine. Do you welcome people to your table? Invite newcomers to lunch with you? This is a huge deal. Welcoming people to your table is not only fun; it's biblical! Why have we gotten out of the habit?

Which steps forward will you take?

Shout out to this awesome church. May their tribe increase.

PS: Post a greeter in the parking lot (if you haven't already). We truly don't know which of the 12 doors to enter.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

I do my best writing when I'm angry.

I do my best writing when I'm angry, and I don't really like being angry.  Go figure.  So, a lot of what I write stays in draft folders and journals because it feels mean, and it isn't particularly helpful to anyone but me.  Some of you somehow combine mean and funny (kudos to you!), but I seem to only be able to combine mean and direct.  This does not seem to be the best combination to compel others, and it reads as self-righteous (and likely is).  

I'm trying to learn to distinguish between righteous anger and unrighteous anger in my life.  I know the difference in definition; it's the application part that gets me.  Also, I seem to be able to combine the two at times.  Is that helpful?  Maybe.  But what is my motivation?  Helping or shaming others? 

Righteous anger is typically anger on behalf of others, anger that sees injustice, anger that wants better for the marginalized.  Unrighteous anger seeks to score points and—indirectly or directly—hopes to shame others.  I'm not really interested in doing that.  Well, if I'm honest, I am a little bit interested in doing that (shaming jerks), but again, it's not really helpful.  It simply encourages me to congratulate myself for not being a jerk (when I'm maybe being a jerk).  Go away irony!  

It's good to write because no matter my feelings or motivations, writing helps me understand what I think and why I think it.  And even if I'm being a jerk, it's good to write the jerkiness down, but it is probably not good to share it with anyone but God.  Maybe it should only be a whiny lament to God, who will no doubt help me see better and through a lens of grace; rather than a whiny rant to you (and everyone!  this is the world wide web!) that is helpful to no one.

So, I'm trying to develop a list of questions for myself that will guide what I post.  Here goes:

  • What is my goal here?  
  • Am I trying to help bring peace, or am I trying to be clever?
  • Am I helping or hurting?
  • Am I trying to shame a jerk or am I being a jerk (or both)?
  • Is this a prayer of lament meant only for God?

I'm working on this.  I haven't really figured it out, but I'll keep trying.